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EU IDEA – Integration and Differentiation for Effectiveness and Accountability

Wilhelm Gunkel / Unsplash
Wilhelm Gunkel / Unsplash

EU IDEA’s key goal is to address whether, how much and what form of differentiation is not only compatible with, but is also conducive to a more effective, cohesive and democratic EU. The basic claim of the project is that differentiation is not only necessary but also desirable.

A certain degree of differentiation has always been part of the European integration project since its early days. The Eurozone and the Schengen area have further consolidated this trend into long-term projects of differentiated integration among EU member states.

A number of unprecedented internal and external challenges to the EU, however, including the financial and economic crisis, migration, renewed geopolitical tensions and Brexit, have reinforced at present the belief that more flexibility is needed within the complex EU machinery. A Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), for example, has been launched in the field of defence, enabling groups of willing and able Member States to join forces through new, flexible arrangements.

The basic claim of the Horizon 2020 research project EU IDEA is that differentiation is not only necessary to address current challenges more effectively, but also desirable as long as such flexibility is compatible with the core EU principles, sustainable in terms of governance, and acceptable to EU citizens, member states and affected third partners.

The further development of the EU’s institutions must combine coherence and consistency with elasticity and flexibility. On the one hand, they must be flexible enough to absorb and compensate for the tensions inherent in a community stretching from the North Cape to Gibraltar and differentiated enough to cope with differences in member countries’ ability (and willingness) to pursue further integration.” (Schäuble, Wolfgang and Karl Lamers (1994), Reflections on European Policy, Bonn, CDU/CSU, 1 September 1994, reprinted in Karl Lamers, A German Agenda for the European Union, London, Federal Trust for Education and Research/Konrad Adenauer Foundation, 1994, p. 16)

The project puts together 15 EU and non-EU partners in a joint research and dissemination effort coordinated by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) from January 2019 to April 2022. EU IDEA’s results will be used to define the criteria – institutional, political and social – to analyse future scenarios of differentiated integration (or disintegration) and to draw up recommendations to European and national institutions.

IEP coordinates two Work Packages (WP) in the project:

  • Narratives on European constitutionalism and identity (WP3)
  • National preferences on EU (WP8)

For more information visit the project’s website:

Follow the project on Twitter: @IdeaEu


Duration: 01 January 2019 – 30 April 2022
Image copyright: Wilhelm Gunkel / Unsplash, Bruno / Pixabay